Eighty-six-year-old William Charles was diagnosed with terminal cancer but is living life to the fullest like he always has: Strumming his guitar and performing for more than 30 people during jam sessions at his house with more than enough food to go around.
A resident of North Augusta, Charles was diagnosed with throat cancer about a year ago and subsequently diagnosed with cancer around his kidneys and on his cheeks.
Charles received 62 treatments of radiation in 2002 for lymph nodes that had developed on his body, which would make radiation treatment now more harmful than helpful.
With more doctors appointments on the horizon, Charles has reverted back to the passion that has given him joy and hope since he was 7 years old: music.
“I started playing the highwood guitar when I was 7, and we bought it for $175. Now, I’ve been offered thousands for it,” Charles said.
Charles also has learned to play other guitars in addition to the piano. Though he had careers at Plant Vogtle and the Savannah River Site, Charles said his music has allowed him to travel all over South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and other parts of the country.
These days, Charles is still active in music and has jam sessions with his friends about once a month. He and four or five others polish up their instruments and take center stage like they did during the glory days.
“Its usually gospel, but I’ve played jazz, country and other forms,” Charles said. “I’ve got four amplifiers and all kinds of music in my shop. So I’ve got a lot of money tied up in my music, because it’s all about the sound you can create.”
His longtime friend Dorothy Walters said doctors have recently speculated that Charles has about six months but could not confirm. Still, he continues to live through his music.
“He really does enjoy his friends,” she said. “It always lifts his spirits when they come around and play music with him.”
Charles added, “What keeps me going day to day is Dorothy. She really helps me out. And then, playing my music. That’s my life. It’s gotten me plenty of jobs, plenty of women, and it’s been my inspiration.”
Derrek Asberry is the SRS beat reporter for the Aiken Standard.